For Artworks Spokane owner Nancy Jones, staring at a blank wall isn’t a mindless task. It’s the beginning of an artistic endeavor. But that’s true for almost any surface she sees.
“I can walk into a space and I see color,” she said.
The decorative artist’s company specializes in customer surface design. They can refinish, resurface or redecorate almost anything, from walls, countertops, floors, and fireplaces to wrought iron, shower stalls, cabinets and furniture.
“I want (customers) to know they’re not confined to a box. The possibilities are endless,” Jones said. “We have products to cover any surface with a decorative finish.”
Additionally, the company offers classes and workshops for hands-on customers who want to do it themselves.
In the showroom – at 15310 E. Marietta Ave. – the floors, walls and furniture give a sense of those possibilities for homeowners who want to improve their curb appeal and refurbish their living space without starting from scratch.
“We don’t rip anything out. It’s eco-friendly,” said Jones, who is a licensed general contractor.
A painted concrete overlay, for example, turns a dilapidated countertop into a modern, durable surface that mimics granite at a fraction of the cost. Chalk paint and stencils transform stark concrete floors into a walkable work of art.
While the showroom is open daily for customers looking for inspiration, this month they’re offering a sneak peek of the company’s new home show booth along with free demonstrations.
About 60 percent of its business is consulting, Jones said, with the rest consisting of product sales and classes, so she can share her expertise.
“There is not enough time for me to paint the world,” she explained, adding that she gets back more than she gives through her workshops. “I learn by teaching. Everybody has a different technique. They bring their personality into their work.”
It’s Jones’ goal to help homeowners reflect their personalities from curbside to inside. “Whether we create it or they create it themselves, it’s an extension of their aesthetic,” she said.
A former occupational therapist, Jones got her start in art as a hobby in the 1970s, when she took a painting class after her daughter was born.
“It became an absolute passion,” she said. She began painting to sell with a home-based business called Santa’s Helpers.
“I’d paint all year and sell everything in three days,” she recalled.
As the business grew she took a small business administration workshop and opened her first retail storefront in 1985, called Homestead Handcrafts, to sell her art and the consigned work of about 50 other artists. She also began offering decorative painting classes.
Then the market changed in 1996, she said, with the Internet and big box stores changing customer perception about price and quality of handcrafted décor.
Still, she continued to teach and was at the forefront of the faux-finishing trend that “exploded in the ’90s.”
About that time, she said her daughter moved home after earning a fine arts degree and they began consulting. They were busy, she said, “as soon as I let it be known we were available to do custom work.”
Many of those initial customers had tried a faux finish “with crappy supplies” and less-than-optimal results.
In 2010 she moved Artworks Spokane to her current studio and showroom off Sullivan Road.
Now Jones has an off-season staff of 11, with additional hires in warmer months, when more homeowners want to spruce up their abodes.
A little more than half of her business, she said, is contracting, with the rest coming from product sales and workshops for the inspired do-it-yourselfer.
“My techniques are step-by-step,” she explained. “It’s simple for people to learn the process.”
Most classes are about eight to 10 people with a lot of one-on-one instruction she said. Classes can accommodate up to 30.
“My business has done well during the recession because people are fixing things,” Jones said. “People want to repurpose what they already have.”
Along with a regular workshop schedule, Artworks Spokane is now offering painting parties so friends can learn and create together, without having to clean up afterward.
And for the homeowner who wants the expertise of her artistic team, she continues to consult, transforming blank walls and other drab, dilapidated and uninspired surfaces into something special.
“I still love coming to work every day,” she said. “The spirit of creativity is alive and new every day. … If I get the ‘wow’ from the customer when they walk in, then I know I’ve done my job.”